Science fiction writer Orson Scott Card has written at least one nearly great book, some very good books and quite a few just plain good books, and in his books he's written some perceptive and very smart things (I've even quoted him at least once on unfutz), so my general impression of him is that he's a pretty smart guy.
You favor Just War. You will fight in defense of your homeland or to stop genocide, but you will not tolerate anything that might harm civilians. Other Just War advocates: Pope Pius XII, the Dalai Lama
In a two-part post (here and here), The Green Knight has some interesting things to say about oppositional tactics, using the examples of George Galloway's testimony, Jon Stewart's notorious appearance on Crossfire, and Judy Bacharach on Fox News.
He boils things down to these necessary ingredients:
Be right, and be prepared.
Take over the agenda.
Seize the moral high ground immediately, and stay there.
Tell the truth as you see it, and nothing else.
Be on the side of the people, and nobody else.
Don't answer stupid or leading questions, but use them as an opportunity.
Use simple, forceful, memorable phrasing.
I will point out one thing: Democratic politicians come in for some harsh criticism for their lack of spine compared to, for instance, Galloway's showing before Norman Coleman's committee, but for Galloway, as an English politician, Stewart, as a comedian, not a politician at all, and Bacharach, an editor of Vanity Fair, the stakes are not nearly as high as they would be for an American Democratic politician dependent on the approval of voters to stay in office. In fact, just the opposite could be said, that Galloway, Stewart and Bacharach all had a lot to gain by going against establishment positions, and it's far from clear (the case isn't made, it's simply asserted) that a politician would benefit in the same way.
This is not to excuse feet of clay, but it does mean that the examples the Green Knight uses aren't necessarily the best ones to put across the lesson.
Update: In an exchange of comments, The Green Knight points out that his posts were not directed specfically at Democratic politicians (the basis of my critique) but at "ordinary progessives":
[T]he Democratic Party and its politicians won't change until they're infiltrated by genuine progressives, just as the GOP has been by radical conservatives. So progressives need some tools.
Here are 15 arguments that creationists make in their attempt to dethrone Darwinism as the reiging paradigm holding together the entire corpus of biological science. An article in Scientific American provides the answers to counter these assertions:
Evolution is only a theory. It is not a fact or a scientific law.
Natural selection is based on circular reasoning: the fittest are those who survive, and those who survive are deemed fittest.
Evolution is unscientific, because it is not testable or falsifiable. It makes claims about events that were not observed and can never be re-created.
Increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution.
The disagreements among even evolutionary biologists show how little solid science supports evolution.
If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?
Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on earth.
Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up by chance.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that systems must become more disordered over time. Living cells therefore could not have evolved from inanimate chemicals, and multicellular life could not have evolved from protozoa.
Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features.
Natural selection might explain microevolution, but it cannot explain the origin of new species and higher orders of life.
Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.
Evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils--creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.
Living things have fantastically intricate features--at the anatomical, cellular and molecular levels--that could not function if they were any less complex or sophisticated. The only prudent conclusion is that they are the products of intelligent design, not evolution.
Recent discoveries prove that even at the microscopic level, life has a quality of complexity that could not have come about through evolution.
The terrifying thing about dictatorship is people's willingness to believe in the divine aspirations of dictators. ... [T]he desire to worship gods is surely part of being human. And when traditional gods are banned, humans have a way of taking their place.
Some of the most monstrous crimes have been carried out by dictators who destroyed or emasculated traditional religious institutions, and substituted their own forms of worship. The Hitler cult was founded on the ruins of the German monarchy, and was accompanied by systematic assaults on organized religion. The same, incidentally, was true of the wartime Japanese emperor cult, which for a short time became almost the exclusive focus of religious fervor, since other spiritual practices were either banned or harnessed to the imperial cause. Stalin and Mao went even further. Neither the Japanese leadership nor Hitler was able to achieve a complete religious tabula rasa. They still had to make some compromises with established institutions. The Communist leaders had no such trouble.
This is something that secularists and atheists who are also pragmatists, such as myself, must somehow deal with, that the religious impulse appears to be innate in most people, and if that's true it cannot simply be ignored without potentially dire consequences. Because if it is not in some way fulfilled, it can be perverted in ways that are extremely damaging to civilized society. This underlines the need for progressive religiosity (as exemplified by the role of the Catholic Church and other religious bodies in the civil rights movement) in any liberal civil society.
From the standpoint of rationalistic atheism, even the most progressive of religions is bound to have aspects which appear irrational and logically indefensible, but if the religious impulse is indeed to some degree innate, ignoring such an irreducible elements of human nature is a profound error, since any political or social system which attempts to ignore or re-fashion human nature beyond the available limits will lead it to eventually crash and burn -- Communism (which attempted to obviate the profit motive) being the most obvious modern example of this.
This is one reason why the generally accepted American principle of separation of church and state is so important to maintaining both a secular society and broad religious tolerance. The ban against governmental involvement in religion works both ways, to protect the rights of all religionists to practice their faith and the right of the non-religious minority (a growing minority) to not have religious beliefs of any kind forced upon them.
The religious right, in its effort to transform secular America into a religious (specifically Christian) state, knows well that undermining this standard understanding of the Establishment Clause is essential to their efforts, which is why every nick in the wall (faith-based welfare funding, upholding "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, permitting local governments to host creches and other Christmas displays) should be of concern to us, even as we understand, as Kevin Drum has pointed out a number of times, the realpolitik that continuing to wage those battles alienates some potential supporters and keeps them at a distance from our coalition.
These small conflicts are not so much important in and of themselves as they are for collectively keeping the edifice of church and state separation intact and protecting our rights -- everyone's rights, in fact. (The only thing it doesn't actually protect is the right of one religious group to claim primacy and foist its beliefs on others at will -- which is why the theocrats oppose it.)
Since the election, I've seen all sorts of proposals for what part of the liberal/progressive agenda should be, or needs to be, jettisoned in order to win. I understand the impulse behind this -- losing sucks, especially losing to Bush & Company -- but the real trick we need to pull off is to win and to hold on to our most important principles at the same time. This doesn't mean we cannot make strategic alliances with those with whom we do not agree 100%, but it does mean that we shouldn't willy-nilly dump the things we stand for simply to insure (or attempt to insure) a win in the next election.
To my mind, the problem isn't in the principles, it's in the way we apply them -- and that means we need more candidates who are able to frame these issues in ways that preserves their underlying purpose and meaning but allows them to appeal to a broader audience.
Along those lines, take a look at these posts by Chris Bowers and Jerome Armstrong on MyDD, and this one by Kos as well. These folks, along with Hillary Clinton in her recent remarks about abortion, are all working their way to a new equilibrium within the Democratic coalition. It's not one that rejects our past positions, nor does it pander to religionists, centrists or moderates -- it's one that changes the emphasis while maintaining the underlying principles.
From one perspective, the "nuclear option" strategy was wildly successful as a bargaining tactic. In response to the blocking of a tiny minority of judges, Frist proposed to break the rules to get them through. In an ideal world, the Democrats wouldn't even dignify this proposal with negotiations. It's sort of like hearing the threat, "I won't cut off your finger if you give me all your money," and then negotiating for more finger. But this is not an ideal world, and to borrow from Rumsfeld, you must negotiate within the political reality that you have. Realistically, the Democrats had no choice but to negotiate and do the best they could. But anyway, back to Frist . . .
Essentially, Frist used the credible threat of cheating and breaking the Senate rules as a successful negotiating tactic to get a few judges through and to create a climate in which it will be at least marginally easier to get more extreme nominees through going forward. Bush's confirmation rate will now rise above 95%. If the Dobson wing were sane, it would realize just how successful Frist has been in getting the Bush nominees through and would shut up and work in the shadows to get their people on the bench.
Which, for some odd reason (perhaps having to do with an intense need to break the somber mood 'round these here parts) made me think of this, from Monty Python ("The Piranha Brothers"):
At the age of fifteen Doug and Dinsdale started attending the Ernest Pythagoras Primary School in Clerkenwell. When the Piranhas left school they were called up but were found by an Army Board to be too unstable even for National Service. Denied the opportunity to use their talents in the service of their country, they began to operate what they called 'The Operation'... They would select a victim and then threaten to beat him up if he paid the so-called protection money. Four months later they started another operation which the called 'The Other Operation'. In this racket they selected another victim and threatened not to beat him up if he didn't pay them. One month later they hit upon 'The Other Other Operation'. In this the victim was threatened that if he didn't pay them, they would beat him up. This for the Piranha brothers was the turning point.
Postscript: Just so I don't misrepresent his take on the Nuclear Option Compromise (will future generations of schoolkids learn this the way we learned the Missouri Compromise? -- doubtful), Publius goes on to write:
Frist only failed if your baseline of "success" is drastically different - and detached from reality. And unfortunately for Frist, that's the baseline that people eventually adopted, largely because of his own fumbling and the outrageous give-up-nothing demands of the Ayatollah Dobson and his radical clerics. Rather than using Bush's overall confirmation rate as the appropriate baseline for success, the Dobson/Hewitt/Frist crowd defined success as the elimination of the filibuster, and thus total unchecked power for the majority.
This is tantamount to saying that the "winner" of the compromise is determined not so much by who got what, but by the perception of who won and lost, what Digby calls the "optics" of it -- which means that (as is not unusual in politics), the side that prevails in the post-event spin is the true winner. It seems to me that the right was too put out by the very audacity of the mere existence of a compromise (they're notoriously not interested in compromising, being owners of The Truth) to get their shit together in time to dominate the spin through their infernal Noise Machine as they usually do, and the rudiments of the liberal/left propaganda apparatus (Move On and the DSCC, for instance) for once got off the dime quickly to claim victory.
Whether that holds or not may depend on future events, but for the moment, the perception seems to be that Frist is the big loser, even if the compromise isn't a clear-cut win for the Democrats.
Update:Kevin Drum has a round-up on the compromise.
[E]very day of the 109th Congress brings us closer to theocracy...
and that's one good reason why Kos is probably right in his summation of the anti-nuclear option deal as the best result that could have been hoped for given the specific circumstances.
Still, even if we judge who "won" by the relatively severity of the reaction on each side (not a bad way to keep score), it's hardly a satisfying "victory", for reasons that Sam Rosenfeld makes clear. I think a lot of us were really hungry for a confrontation, after all these years of taking it on the chin from the right, and it looked plausible that this was one we could win straight out. When the numbers didn't fall that way (thanks, it must be said, to the feet of clay of the moderate Republicans now having praised heaped on them for this deal), the compromise was the best option still available.
Pragmatism trumped dogmatism, and that's as it should be, it's just not as fulfilling an outcome.
H. Allen Orr, professor of biology, takes on Intelligent Design in The New Yorker. Some good passages:
It’s true that when you confront biologists with a particular complex structure like the flagellum they sometimes have a hard time saying which part appeared before which other parts. But then it can be hard, with any complex historical process, to reconstruct the exact order in which events occurred, especially when, as in evolution, the addition of new parts encourages the modification of old ones. When you’re looking at a bustling urban street, for example, you probably can’t tell which shop went into business first. This is partly because many businesses now depend on each other and partly because new shops trigger changes in old ones (the new sushi place draws twenty-somethings who demand wireless Internet at the café next door). But it would be a little rash to conclude that all the shops must have begun business on the same day or that some Unseen Urban Planner had carefully determined just which business went where.
Although proponents of I.D. routinely inflate the significance of minor squabbles among evolutionary biologists (did the peppered moth evolve dark color as a defense against birds or for other reasons?), they seldom acknowledge their own, often major differences of opinion. In the end, it’s hard to view intelligent design as a coherent movement in any but a political sense.
It’s also hard to view it as a real research program. Though people often picture science as a collection of clever theories, scientists are generally staunch pragmatists: to scientists, a good theory is one that inspires new experiments and provides unexpected insights into familiar phenomena. By this standard, Darwinism is one of the best theories in the history of science: it has produced countless important experiments (let’s re-create a natural species in the lab—yes, that’s been done) and sudden insight into once puzzling patterns (that’s why there are no native land mammals on oceanic islands). In the nearly ten years since the publication of [I.D. proponent Michael] Behe’s book, by contrast, I.D. has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology. As the years pass, intelligent design looks less and less like the science it claimed to be and more and more like an extended exercise in polemics. [Emphasis added - Ed]
Loyal unfutz reader Nathanael "encapsulates [his] feelings of citizenship thoughout this administration":
A victim of an ongoing crime perpetrated by Republicans against Democrats.
Not just against Democrats, Nathanael: against every person here and abroad who does not share their dangerously radical ideology.
When Bush said "You're either with us or against us," everyone assumed that "us" was the United States, or, more expansively (and therefore less likely), maybe even all freedom-loving people around the world, but it turns out when he said "us" he really meant only those who drank the Kool-Aid.
Although he's nominally a Republican, Michael Bloomberg is certainly not an ideologue in the Bush / DeLay mold -- he hasn't imbibed of the Kool-Aid.
What he is, is really ... corporate. He's a "What's good for General Motors is good for the country" kind of guy. He's a real CEO, not the pretend CEO of the Bush "CEO Presidency", and he's tried to run the city sort of like a CEO, meaning that when he thinks something is a good idea, he goes with it and everyone's supposed to go along with him, because that's how CEOs run companies.
Only a lot of New Yorkers don't think his ideas are all that good. The Board of Education turning into the Department of Education was a good idea -- but it wasn't his. Mayors have been trying to do that for years, but it took a non-political mayor like Bloomberg for the people who run the State to agree to allow it to happen. (Pataki hated Giuliani and would never agree during his term in office.)
Bloomberg's pet idea is underwriting the building of a stadium on the West Side that'll fuck up the entire neighborhood so good it'll never be fixed, so that the city can host the Olympics, so that... Tell me again why we're trying to host the Olympics? To prove we're a world class city? To show that we've come back from 9/11? Anybody?
To show the world that Michael Bloomberg has big ideas?
The "F.Y.I" column in the New York City-only "City" section of the Sunday New York Times has been a favorite of mine for a long while. The format is that someone (supposedly) writes in with an inquiry about some oddity around the city, and the person who writes the column (currently Michael Pollak), responds with the background information on it. The stuff is usually light-weight, and frequently humorous.
A few weeks ago, on April 17th, this item appeared:
Q.On the brick wall of a parking garage at 345 West 36th Street in the garment district is a touching plaque dedicated to someone named Leander E. Jones that says he used to lean against the building. There must be a story behind this.
There is, explained Anthony Russo of East Meadow, N.Y. His brother-in-law, Jack Anthony Gambino, who owned the garage before he died in a 2000 plane crash, put up the plaque to honor an old friend, Leander Jones, known as Gene. "Gene was a big, massive man," Mr. Russo said. Both the teenage Jack and his friend Gene, who was at least 15 years older, had worked for Jack's father and uncle in a trucking business, and the two took a liking to each other.
"Gene became a kind of mentor for Jack," Mr. Russo said. "Once Jack sprouted his wings and decided to go into business in the garment district himself, he took Gene on as his right-hand man." Gene was the garage's dispatcher, telling about 15 men where to deliver garments that were off-loaded into carts and destined for various stores.
One of the men at the garage, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, recalled that Gene likes to lean against the front of the building, and the idea that he was holding up the building was a kind of joke between Gene and Jack. After Gene died in 1999 -- of a heart attack, Mr. Russo said -- his friend put up the plaque.
It reads in part: "This plaque is dedicated to Leander E. Jones. Affectionately known as Gene. For it is on this site that Gene kept this side of my building up, occasionally leaning on the other side to balance it."
"Gene, you always taught me well, and I'll always appreciate it and remember it."
See what I mean? -- A cute story about a guy who leaned against a building and a friend who commemorated it.
The Gambino crime family notoriously controlled trucking in the garment industry in the New York area, using extortion and other standard Mafia techniques to maintain their position.
In 2003, a person named "Anthony Russo" pled guilty to conspiring to commit extortion and was sentenced to 33 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He "conspired to extort more than $10,000 from the owners and operators of a clothing manufacturer in New York City in order to gain labor peace."
The NTSB apparently could not determine the cause of Jack Anthony Gambino's air plane crash. "Things at first seemed normal. The tower at Roanoke Regional Airport received two radio transmissions from the pilot before the single-engine plane suddenly disappeared from radar. Then, without any apparent sign of distress, the plane dropped from the sky. ... 'The plane came apart in the air,' said 1st Sgt. Joe Peters of the Virginia State Police.
Alright, nothing definitive in any of that -- I could be impugning the reputations of perfectly legitimate and law-abiding citizens -- but, the whole story -- the kid and his "mentor" who worked for his father and uncle in garment district trucking until the kid "spread his wings" and started his own garment district trucking business; the "mentor" who was a "massive man" and worked as a truck dispatcher and the bosses' "right-hand man", but had enough spare time to be well-known for leaning against a building; the whole thing -- just feels like wiseguy stuff to me, and I wonder why it didn't feel that way to Michael Pollak, the writer for the Times? And, for that matter, why didn't it strike any of his editors that way?
Or was someone leaned on here?
Maybe it's nothing -- either there's no story there, or else it's just a minor case of lackluster reporting. But in any case, if these guys are hoods, the story loses most of its charm for me.
A recent editorial in the New York Times decried the plans of the city's Parks Commissioner to seriously restrict the public use of The Great Lawn in Central Park, one of the the city's best and most accessible large public spaces, for large events. It seems that after having spent a bundle to replace the old, more delicate grass with a heartier strain, fixing the drainage system, upgrading the base under the lawn, and hiring a big maintenance crew, the city is unwilling to let the public use the space because, well, it just might get damaged!
This is somewhat similar to those supply sergeants in service comedies who don't want to give out supplies because there wouldn't be anything to inventory.
I'm not at all surprised at the attitude, though, because the same thing applies at my local park, in Madison Square at 23rd Street. There, just like in Central Park, they've done extensive work on upgrading the grassy areas -- but then went and fenced them all in so you can't sit in them. The large central area is open only during extremely restricted hours (and you're not allowed to do much of anything there when it is open), and the side areas are basically completely closed off. (They're only open when there's a piece of artwork installed there that requires people to walk up to it for inspection, or for sponsored events.)
Other than that, there are many times when there's no place to sit on the grass in the only public grassy area for many blocks around. I find it extremely annoying and, as a direct result, I use the park much less often than I used to.
With Madison Square Park, I'm fairly certain that the new attitude of preferring looking at grass to sitting or lying on it is the result of the public-private partnership by which the Madison Square Park Conservancy, a private organization (and the people responsible for installing the artwork I mentioned) pays for a lot of the park's upkeep and by doing so gets a large voice in setting the park's use policies. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the same thing is true of the Great Lawn in Central Park, that the Central Park Conservancy is heavily involved in the attempt to restrict its use.
It comes down to the difference between preserving something and using it.
This is the downside of the whole "public-private partnership" thing, which came into popularity here after NYC almost went belly-up some decades ago. True, you tap into a new source of funding to pay for city amenities without having to raise taxes, but by doing so you cede influence over policy to people whose agenda may not coincide with that of the people who use those amenities.
It may be practical, but it's not terribly democratic -- it's more of a step back to the era of wealthy patrons providing the things they thought the people needed or should have. Personally, I rather have more usable green space and less bad artwork.
Postscript: A hearing was held on the proposal a couple of days ago -- so far, I haven't seen a report on it. However, Newsdayop-ed did weigh in opposing the plan, as did a New York Postcolumnist. And also, this being New York, a lawsuit has been threatened (by the NYCLU) if the city doesn't allow the Lawn to be used for protests.
(A larger issue is that the City doesn't have a large enough maintenance budget to keep up all its parks, and a disproportionate amount gets spent in the showcase borough of Manhattan, to the detriment of the outer boroughs. I noticed this same problem when I was commuting regularly to Brooklyn in the last 10 days -- many of the subways stations in Manhattan have recently been renovated, but those I went through in Brooklyn looked extremely run down. Of course, so does the 23rd Street station on the #6 line, just a block from my home, so it's not completely about being Manhatta-centric.)
Update: I just saw that Steve Gilliard has an entry on the proposal -- including a report on the hearing -- and he calls it like it is, "Bullshit".
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.